If Dec. 21, 2012 does indeed signify the end of the world, I’m guessing it won’t be via any natural disaster. No, if our species (or rather, all species) are to conclude their existences within the next 12 months, it will probably be due to some terribly stupid and harmful thing modern man has created. War? Pollution? Debilitating passivity? Take your pick, really.

Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash creates a rather charming dystopia dealing with those very issues. The novel depicts a sci-fi society in which commercialization and developments in cyber technology have rendered the world a scary (yet eerily familiar) collection of privatized industry, mafia-run neighborhoods and loser computer hackers goggling into a cyber universe as a means of escaping their dirty reality.

It’s a grim picture. However, after a few motorcycle chases, duels with traditional samurai swords, neuro-linguistic brainwashing, code breaking, biblical history and even a sex scene or two thrown in (yeah, now we have your attention), the story is also completely exciting. The extreme detail and epicness with which Stephenson tells it puts Snow Crash at the top of my personal “Books to Read before the End of the World” list.

Moreover, the novel is also a prime example of “cyberpunk fiction.” What is cyberpunk, you ask? Imagine the movie “Brazil” combined with some Japanese manga combined with cyborgs dipped in film noir detective fiction.

The title was originally the creation of author Bruce Bethke (known for his short story, “Cyberpunk” circa 1983), but the postmodern literary genre has since expanded, acquiring its own set of ardent followers. Weird, yes, but do you really want to leave this good earth without being aware of the wonders of this wacked out subculture? I surely would not, and especially not after reading Stephenson’s sublime novel.

So, if you want to welcome in your impending doom with some humor and intrigue, or even if you just want to read a pretty fantastic piece of modern literature, check out Snow Crash before Dec. 21 comes (in fact, give it a couple days so you can finish the whole thing — the ending is killer), when we are either blasted into oblivion or your post-apocalyptic party hangover and vague memories of bad decisions do indeed make it seem like your world is going to end.